So, 2021 was hard for so many of us with various things happening, specifically the pandemic. However, for me personally there were a number of good things to celebrate crime fiction wise. The Shotsblog has been going from strength to strength. Looking back in 2020 we had over 250 blog posts. We managed to surpass that in 2021 with 354. What a coup!
I found myself doing more events online last year than I expected and as much as I enjoyed doing them I did miss that face to face contact. Being able to see friends and catch up with people. I am however looking forward to various crime fiction events this year.
There were some great books released last year and my list of favourite reads can be found here. This list could have been doubled. Saying that there are also a great number of books due to be published in 2022. As much as I would like to indicate all the books that I am looking forward to reading this year, I am going to start with the ones that I am looking forward to reading in the first six months of 2022.
I have always been a big Raymond Chandler fan and if you have read any interviews that I have done then I have always mentioned him as one of my all time favourite authors. I am therefore quite intrigued to see how good the re-imaging of Philip Marlowe is going to be. The Goodbye Coast: A Philip Marlowe Novel by Joe Ide (Orion). The seductive and relentless figure of Raymond Chandler's detective, Philip Marlowe, is vividly re-imagined in present-day Los Angeles. Here is a city of scheming Malibu actresses, ruthless gang members, virulent inequality, and washed-out police. Acclaimed and award-winning novelist Joe Ide imagines a Marlowe very much of our time: he's a quiet, lonely, and remarkably capable and confident private detective, though he lives beneath the shadow of his father, a once-decorated LAPD homicide detective, famous throughout the city, who's given in to drink after the death of Marlowe's mother. Marlowe, against his better judgement, accepts two missing person cases, the first a daughter of a faded, tyrannical Hollywood starlet, and the second, a British child stolen from his mother by his father. At the centre of COAST is Marlowe's troubled and confounding relationship with his father, a son who despises yet respects his dad, and a dad who's unable to hide his bitter disappointment with his grown boy. Together, they will realise that one of their clients may be responsible for murder of her own husband, a washed-up director in debt to Albanian and Russian gangsters, and that the client's trouble-making daughter may not be what she seems.
I have been a huge fan of Gregg Hurwitz even before he started writing his Orphan X series. His Tim Rackley series has always been one of my favourites. However, when Orphan X was first published he created an extraordinary character that has continued to grow and fascinate readers continuously. The next book in the Orphan X series is Dark Horse (Michael Joseph) The hero - Evan Smoak: former off-the-books assassin - code name Orphan X. His world is divided into those who deserve his help and those who've brought his singular brand of justice upon themselves. The victim - A desperate father reaches out. His teenage daughter Anjelina has been kidnapped by a brutal criminal cartel and spirited over the border into Mexico. And while money is no object, Evan soon realises that his prospective client's past is as clouded and compromised as his own. The mission - If Evan is going to put his life on the line to rescue Anjelina, he must first decide whether he can act on behalf of a bad man. And even then, up against the men who are holding his daughter, there will be no guarantee of success...
Kotaro Isaka's Bullet Train was an unusual book featuring a bunch of assassins aboard a train, where not that many get off at the other end. It was one of my favourite reads in 2021 so I am looking forward to Three Assassins by Kotaro Isaka (Vintage). Once again assassins are in the mix. Their mission is murder. His is revenge. Suzuki is just an ordinary man until his wife is murdered. When he discovers the criminal gang responsible he leaves behind his life as a maths teacher and joins them, looking for a chance to take his revenge. What he doesn't realise is that he's about to get drawn into a web of unusual professional assassins, each with their own agenda. The Whale convinces his victims to take their own lives using just his words. The Cicada is a talkative and deadly knife expert. The elusive Pusher dispatches his targets in deadly traffic accidents. Suzuki must take each of them on, in order to try to find justice and keep his innocence in a world of killers.
If you have never read any of Mick Herron's Slough House series then I would suggest that you do so. 2021 saw the publication of Dolphin Junction a collection of short stories which included a peek into the past of Slough House's top agent Jackson Lamb. Bad Actors (John Murray) sees the return to Slough House with a full length novel. Intelligence has a new home. A governmental think-tank, whose remit is to curb the independence of the intelligence service, has lost one of its key members, and Claude Whelan-one-time head of MI5's Regent's Park-is tasked with tracking her down. But the trail leads straight back to the Park itself, with Diana Taverner as chief suspect. Has Diana overplayed her hand at last? What's her counterpart, Moscow's First Desk, doing in London? And does Jackson Lamb know more than he's telling? Over at Slough House, with Shirley Dander in rehab, Roddy Ho in dress rehearsal, and new recruit Ashley Khan turning up the heat, the slow horses are doing what they do best, and adding a little bit of chaos to an already unstable situation . . . There are bad actors everywhere, and they usually get their comeuppance before the credits roll. But politics is a dirty business, and in a world where lying, cheating and backstabbing are the norm, sometimes the good guys can find themselves outgunned.
The Book of Sand (Century) is the posthumous published book by Theo Clare who for many of us is better known as Mo Hayder. This is not strictly a crime book more of a high concept thriller. But with the loss last year of Mo Hayder The Book of Sand is a welcome reminder of how good a writer she is. Sand. A hostile world of burning sun. Outlines of several once-busy cities shimmer on the horizon. Now empty of inhabitants, their buildings lie in ruins. In the distance a group of people - a family - walk towards us. Ahead lies shelter: a 'shuck' the family call home and which they know they must reach before the light fails, as to be out after dark is to invite danger and almost certain death. To survive in this alien world of shifting sand, they must find an object hidden in or near water. But other families want it too. And they are willing to fight to the death to make it theirs. It is beginning to rain in Fairfax County, Virginia when McKenzie Strathie wakes up. An ordinary teenage girl living an ordinary life - except that the previous night she found a sand-lizard in her bed, and now she's beginning to question everything around her, especially who she really is... Two very different worlds featuring a group of extraordinary characters driven to the very limit of their endurance in a place where only the strongest will survive.
Wiley Cash has always been one of those writers whose novels have always had a great sense of place. From his brilliant debut novel A Land More Kind Than Home to his CWA Gold Dagger Award winning This Dark Road to Mercy Wiley Cash has constantly given readers lyrical, heartbreaking and haunting stories. With When Ghosts Come Home (Faber & Faber) we once again have a fascinating, nuanced meditation on life in a small town. An abandoned plane. A dead body. A small town threatening to explode. 'A searing, thunderous, heartbreaking thriller. Wiley Cash has talent to burn.' Chris Whitaker Winston did not hear it so much as feel it as it passed over their house and into the trees across the waterway. The sheriff struggling for re-election and haunted by his past. The mystery plane which crash-lands on his island. The daughter returning home to hide from her troubles. The FBI pilot sent in to help. As the mystery of the abandoned plane and the dead body stokes long-simmering racial tensions, a moment of reckoning draws ever closer for the town of Oak Island.
I have always been a big fan of (1) short stories and (2) Laura Lippman who writes phenomenal short stories. Seasonal Work and Other Killer Stories is a collection by Laura Lippman that I am looking forward to reading. From 'The Everyday Housewife' to 'The Cougar', 'Tricks' to 'Snowflake Time', Laura Lippman's sharp and acerbic stories explore the contemporary world and the female experience through the prism of classic crime, where the stakes are always deadly. And in the collection's longest piece, the novella 'Just One More', she follows the trajectory of a married couple who, tired of re-watching 'Columbo' re-runs during lockdown, decide to join the same dating app: 'Why would we do something like that?' 'As an experiment. And a diversion. We would both join, then see if the service matches us. Just for grins...'
This is just a snapshot of some of the books that I'm looking forward to reading. There are lots more and I am in no doubt that 2022 will once again be a bumper year for great books. My thanks of course go to all the wonderful authors who have kept me busy reading. It looks as if will be the same again this year.